Environmental Dioxins and Endometriosis
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Endometriosis is a common gynecologic problem of unknown etiology. Estrogen dependence and immune modulation are established features of this disease and recently environmental contaminants have been suggested to play a role in the pathobiology of endometriosis as well. Previous work in nonhuman primates has shown that exposure to the dioxin 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is associated with an increased prevalence and severity of endometriosis. Further animal experiments have implicated dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in this disease. Rodent studies support the plausibility for a role of environmental contaminants in the pathophysiology of endometriosis although a convincing mechanistic hypothesis has yet to be advanced. Small hospital-based case-control studies have failed to provide compelling evidence for or against an association of environmental contaminants and endometriosis. Herein we review the available literature that provides evidence that dioxin and dioxin-like compounds are potent modulators of immune and endocrine function critical to the pathobiology of endometriosis. Furthermore, perspectives on the potential mechanism(s) of dioxin and dioxin-like compound-induced toxicity in endometriosis, important knowledge needs, potential animal models for endometriosis studies, and considerations integral to future human case-control studies are discussed.
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